The Honduran Congress voted overwhelmingly yesterday not to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya and allow him to finish his term. The vote saw 111 of the 128 member body reject reinstatement. That includes no votes from Zelaya’s own Liberal party which holds a majority of seats in the Congress. There is apparently a deep divide within that party concerning the swing to the left which they see as being influenced by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
This also ends the US brokered deal which would have seen Zelaya return to finish out his term. The vote, as I see it, should put an end to outside attempts to reinstate Zelaya. When only 14 out of a body of 128 vote for such a reinstatementj (3 were absent) – especially when his own party holds a majority- I think it is fair to conclude that such a return is not considered to be in the best interest of the country.
Criminal investigators in Honduras have reportedly found computers containing the certified election results of the referendum which was to confirm Mel Zelaya as president for…however long he wanted to be president, I guess. Anyway, the certified results contained voting tallies, information about the voters, and other electoral information. An example:
One of the district attorneys that participated in the operation that took place this Friday showed reporters an official voting result from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa, in which the specific number of people that participated in table 345, where there were 550 ballots, 450 of which were votes in favor of Zelaya’s proposal and 30 were against, in addition to 20 blank ballots and 30 ballots, which were nullified.
That’s a very complete report of the election, and contains a wealth of details about the results that would be a credit to the authorities in charge of any election.
Of course, it would be even more impressive if the referendum had actually taken place.
There was no referendum. It was aborted by the legal, constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya from power.
And yet, in the presidential palace’s computer, Mr. Zelaya apparently had a complete, certified result of an election that never took place.
If the Honduran authorities are to be believed, the evidence is that he had already completed a plan to steal the election, and the only remaining act to be performed was to conduct a sham referendum, whose results had already been determined.
Yet, this is the guy that the Obama Administration and the OAS thinks should be the legitimate leader of Honduras.
From an Obama statement in Russia:
“America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies,” the president told graduate students at the commencement ceremony of Moscow’s New Economic School. “We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not. “
Again and again Obama stresses the fact that Mel Zelaya was “democratically-elected”. But the same could be said about many of today’s dictators. Elections are only one part of the democratic process. The other, and the one that sustains the electoral process, is the rule of law. Focusing only on the fact that Zelaya was “democratically-elected” but ignoring the fact that he has attempted to subvert Honduran constitutional principles that ensure such democratic elections is bad enough.
However, continuing that line of criticism after being apprised of the constitutional arguments and the process which led to Zeyala’s ouster is completely unacceptable. Yes, we back the right of people to democratically elect their leaders. But we must also back their decision, driven by the rule of law, to remove a leader when he refuses to follow the law he is sworn to uphold. Why is it that Obama, the “Constitutional law professor, doesn’t appear to “get” that?
That’s Glenn Garvin of the Maimi Herald’s question:
For weeks, Zelaya — an erratic leftist who styles himself after his good pal Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — has been engaged in a naked and illegal power grab, trying to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow him to run for reelection in November.
First Zelaya scheduled a national vote on a constitutional convention. After the Honduran supreme court ruled that only the country’s congress could call such an election, Zelaya ordered the army to help him stage it anyway. (It would be ”non-binding,” he said.) When the head of the armed forces, acting on orders from the supreme court, refused, Zelaya fired him, then led a mob to break into a military base where the ballots were stored.
His actions have been repudiated by the country’s supreme court, its congress, its attorney-general, its chief human-rights advocate, all its major churches, its main business association, his own political party (which recently began debating an inquiry into Zelaya’s sanity) and most Hondurans: Recent polls have shown his approval rating down below 30 percent.
In fact, about the only people who didn’t condemn Zelaya’s political gangsterism were the foreign leaders and diplomats who now primly lecture Hondurans about the importance of constitutional law. They’re also strangely silent about the vicious stream of threats against Honduras spewing from Chávez since Zelaya was deposed.
Warning that he’s already put his military on alert, Chávez on Monday flat-out threatened war against Honduras if Roberto Micheletti, named by the country’s congress as interim president until elections in November, takes office.
I think Garvin’s question is a good one. If you have someone who continues to pursue activities which are clearly not constitutional, and instead is doing everything within his power to subvert said constitution, what do you do?
Well perhaps have the military arrest him and throw him out of the country is not the first action which comes to mind, granted. However, in Honduras, unlike here, the military does have a law enforcement function. That may not be ideal (because of exactly the perception it leaves) but that’s the case. Perhaps, in retrospect, the best thing that could have been done is have civilian law enforcement arrest Zelaya, keep him in the country and put him on trial. Bottom line – it seems his removal was justified based on his actions.
What the world seems to be objecting too most is the method of his removal while ignoring the reasons.
And then, as Garvin points out, we have the thug in Venezuela threatening Honduras while everyone remains silent:
”If they swear him in we’ll overthrow him,” Chávez blustered. “Mark my words. Thugetti — as I’m going to refer to him from now on — you better pack your bags, because you’re either going to jail or you’re going into exile.”
No one denouncing the coup seems to be bothered by Chavez’s threats. In fact, it could be argued that the reaction of the US has green-lighted Chavez and his followers to intervene in some way, to include militarily. Not that Chavez or the Venezuelan military are competent enough to actually do that, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me now if they tried.
Zelaya was trying to follow Chavez’s template and somehow manage a constitutional change to a permanent presidency through bypassing the constitutionally mandated process and claiming a popular mandate instead. Even his own party didn’t support his attempt and the congress, dominated by that party, passed a law making what Zelaya was attempting illegal. Zelaya attempted it anyway, making what Zelaya was doing a criminal offense. The Supreme Court of Honduras ruled against Zelaya. The Attorney General apparently enforced the law.
Here, we’d call that the “checks and balances” working. There, the result is apparently a “coup”.
The point? In reality, this is not at all a cut-and-dried “military coup” as it is being portrayed. It wasn’t a disgruntled group of military officers who decided to take the law into their own hands and to change the government because they don’t like the form or direction in which it was heading. Instead a rather broad based coalition of politicians, to include those in his party, and other institutions such as the congress (legislative branch) and Supreme Court (judicial branch), found his criminal behavior to be unacceptable and decided to take what they considered to be legal action to prevent a rogue politician from any further attempts at violating the law.
They removed him from office.
And, unlike its reaction to the brutality on display in Iran, the world had an immediate knee-jerk fit.
We now have Venezuela threatening Honduras without a peep from the OAS or the US. We have the OAS now giving Honduras 3 days to reinstall Zelaya or else (what the “else” is is anyone’s guess). We have the president of Argentina sticking her nose into the affair. And we have the showdown tomorrow as Zelaya, in the company of the UN, OAS and Argentine president, reentering Honduras in a bid to retake office. Honduras has said Zelaya will be arrested if he reenters.
Why was there such a rush on the part of the US to denounce this? If sitting back for 10 days and assessing the situation in Iran before speaking was such a good idea as the administration claims, why wasn’t the same true in Honduras? As the facts come out, it seems that it isn’t what it is being characterized as.
If all of the world’s concern is focused on the “democratic process”, where was that concern last week as the now ex leader of Honduras tried to subvert the constitution and claim a mandate by means it prohibited?
Nowhere to be heard. The world was quite content, it seems, to let another declared leftist permanently install himself as a virtual dictator in a Latin American country. But let that country try to enforce it’s constitution, and all hell breaks loose.
But not Iran.
Hmmm. And even saying anything about Iran could be considered “meddling” in the internal affairs of another country, per the Obama administration, but apparently working actively within Honduras to stop what it characterizes as a “military coup” isn’t meddling.
Confusing foreign policy.
An interesting aspect of the Honduran “coup”, per Fausta is:
-Tuesday last week the Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections.
– The Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, named a commission to investigate Zelaya. The Commission found (my translation: If you quote it, please credit me and link to this post)
Zelaya acted against the mandates of legal and electoral laws, the Public Ministry, the National Congress, the Attorney General, and other institutions of the State, which had declared the poll illegal.
Additionally, the court weighed in:
Indeed, Honduras’ La Prensa states that (My translation: If you use this, please credit me and link to this post)
An official statement of the Supreme Court of Justice explained that the Armed Forces acted under lawful grounds when detaining the President of the Republic, and by decommissioning the materials to be used on the illegal poll which aimed to bring forth Executive Power against a judicial order.
Other sources verified that the president of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, will assume the presidency of the republic in a few hours.
Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was detained this morning by the military in compliance with an order of the courts of law.
I’ve also seen a report that the new president, Roberto Micheletti, is of the same party as Zelaya.
As I said this morning I’m not a Honduran Constitutional expert – but our Constitutional expert-in-chief seems to have it all figured out. I think the “why” should be obvious:
Analysts said quick criticism of the coup by Obama and Clinton on Sunday pleased Latin American countries bitter about the long history of U.S. intervention in the region.
Despite Obama’s claim that this would set a “terrible precedent”, the State Department still hasn’t yet made a determination that an actual “military coup” has actually taken place:
Despite Obama’s comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration was not formally designating the ouster as a military coup for now.
Such a designation could force the U.S. leader to cut off most aid to Honduras. Under U.S. legislation, no aid — other than for the promotion of democracy — may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup.
“We do think that this has evolved into a coup,” Clinton told reporters, adding the administration was “withholding” that determination for now.
The stated reason is they want to leave room for negotiations with “the goal of restoring democratic order in Honduras”.
What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not what happened wasn’t a result of “democratic order” and legal. For instance:
Jason Steck, writing at Real Clear World Blog, explains
what is happening in Honduras may be an example of a coup that is not only legal, but mandatory
because, in Honduras’s case, the military has been endowed with a role in maintaining democratic governance; this time their task was to delivery Zelaya safely out of office and into the airplane to Costa Rica.
If this all ends up being constituitonally legal, it will be interesting to see how Obama backs off his previous statements or whether, instead, he continues to characterize the arrest of Zelaya as a “coup” to play to the leftist crowd now “pleased” with his initial reaction.
Regardless, I’m less than impressed with Obama’s reaction to world events in Iran, North Korea and now Honduras.
It seems what has happened in Honduras is being characterized by most as a “military coup”. However Fausta, who has been following it all very closely, seems not to be sure that is the case. Instead she and some others are characterizing it as the military enforcing the orders of the Supreme Court and Congress.
Not being a Honduran constitutional expert or even really knowing whether that is legally permissible under their constitution, I’ll leave it to others to decide what the action really is. However, from Fausta, some background info that will get you into the picture. It is all about a referendum which President Manuel Zelaya wanted to hold concerning his term in office which is constitutionally limited to one term. Zelaya wanted to be able to serve another and decided a referendum would do to make that happen. The Supreme Court of Honduras declared such a referendum illegal. Zelaya essentially told them to pound sand (a very Jacksonian reaction):
Background on the referendum, which Zelaya insisted on in spite of it having been declared unlawful:
* When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest.
* Yesterday the Supreme Court ordered by a 5-0 vote that Vásquez be reinstated.
* Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered authorities to pick up all the ballots and electoral material, which were held by the country’s air force.
* The country’s Attorney General requested yesterday that Congress oust Zelaya.
* The courts have declared the referendum unlawful. Last Tuesday the Congress passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections. Congress has also named a commission to investigate Zelaya.
This is the first coup in Honduras since 1982 when a democratically elected civilian government came to power .
So the question remains, was the military acting on its own or under the orders of some other constitutional body that had the legal right to order the removal of the president? It may turn out that both sides acted unconstitutionally and illegally. However it should be noted that the Honduran Attorney General had weighed in on the situation:
The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out.
So it is conceivable that the military was acting under the AG’s orders.
What Zelaya was trying to bypass is this provision in the Honduran Constitution:
Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions.
Apparently, at the moment, all is calm and quiet in Honduras. The Congress has accepted a “letter of resignation” from Zelaya which Zelaya (who is in Costa Rica) says he didn’t write. The Congress has also voted to make their head the new president.
Reaction has been swift and negative. The OAS said it would refuse to recognize the new government. President Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on Hondurans “to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter”, whatever that means.
It certainly seems that at least one party was trying to circumvent the “rule of law” in this case. Whether the others who removed him were remains to be seen. But the Obama administration is sticking by its one-note foreign policy song:
“We think this can be resolved through dialogue,” said the senior administration official.
Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez, with all his new Russian military equipment is rattling sabers in Venezuela as he sees a part of his Bolivarian Socialist revolution go astray. Of course the first knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the US. In fact the Obama administration claims to have tried to stop the “coup” when it learned about it (some might see that as “meddling” in the “internal affairs of another country”).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, blamed “the Yankee empire”, and threatened military action should the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras be attacked; President Evo Morales of Bolivia described Mr Zelaya’s removal as “an assault on democracy”.
Of course both Chavez and Morales have stagemanaged similar assaults on their own Constitutions and managed to pull them off to their advantage.
As Drudge would say – developing …